Neighbors fill up on wine in Williamsburg bar fight

A Community Board 1 committee voted on Tuesday night to deny a liquor license for a Metropolitan Avenue wine bar as neighbors complained that booze-soaked, party-loving, “frat boy”–filled Williamsburg just can’t handle one more drinking establishment.

“It’s nothing personal to the people running this business, but the neighborhood is nearly saturated with bars,” Dennis Thompkins, a Williamsburg resident, told CB1’s public safety committee, which was considering a liquor license request by Custom American Wine Bar. “The area is becoming unlivable. What we need are businesses that serve our community, not a transient community.”

But the owners of the wine bar, which is at the corner of Driggs Avenue, said they have 17 years of experience in the food and beverage industry, and said their restaurant would be upscale and feature locally sourced food and alcohol.

Dan Lathroum and Stefan Mailvaganam also said they’d stay open as late as 2 am on some nights.

That anything-but-startling revelation led to an audible gasp among two dozen residents who stuffed the cramped community board office — prompting committee chair Mieszko Kalita to remind uninformed residents that licensed bars can stay open until 4 am under state law.

Not that Lathroum and Mailvaganam want to run such a late-night haunt, they said.

The crowd won’t be “drunken frat boys” who have been disrupting the neighborhood, Lathroum said. “Drunken frat boys don’t come to drink an $11 glass of wine, grab an indigenous bite to eat, and listen to jazz.”

But neighbors didn’t want to hear it, demanding at first that the bar close at 9 pm, though later saying that 10 pm would be acceptable.

“We are trying to prevent gang activity in the neighborhood,” said Luis Santiago, who said he was representing tenants from 232 Metropolitan Ave. “Opening this restaurant with beer and liquor, with teenagers already going crazy here, it’s going to be an even bigger issue. I don’t think it’s a good idea for there to be tables and a cafe out on the sidewalk.”

Though seasoned in the restaurant world, Lathroum was still overwhelmed by Tuesday night’s dust-up.

“We expected opposition but I didn’t expect to be vilified,” said Lathroum.

The application will go before the full board on Sept. 9. The full board’s vote is only advisory. The State Liquor Authority routinely overrules community boards.